The tradition of Zen teaching stories goes back at least to the time of the Buddha. Like the Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh uses story–telling to engage people’s interest so he can share important teachings, insights and life lessons.
Drawing of the Buddha
When I was a small boy of seven or eight I happened to see a drawing of the Buddha on the cover of a Buddhist magazine. The Buddha was sitting on the grass, very peacefully, and I was impressed. I thought the artist must have had a lot of peace and calm within himself at the time to be able to draw such a special image. Just looking at the drawing made me happy, because so many people around me at the time were not very calm or happy at all.
Seeing this peaceful image, the idea came to me that l wanted to become someone like that Buddha, someone who could sit very still and calm. I think that was the moment when I first wanted to become a monk, although I didn’t know how to describe it that way at the time.
The Buddha is not a god; he was very much a human being like the rest of us. Like many of us, he suffered greatly as a teenager. He saw the suffering in his kingdom and he saw how his father, King Suddhodana, tried to reduce the suffering around him, but seemed to be helpless. To young Siddhartha, politics seemed ineffective. Even as a teenager, he was searching for a way out of suffering. Although he had been born a prince, all the material comforts were not enough to make him happy, at home, or at peace. He left the palace where he was raised in order to find a way out of suffering and to find his true home.
I think that many young people today feel the same as the young Siddhartha. We are searching for something good, true, and beautiful to follow. But looking around we can’t find what we’re looking for and we become disillusioned. Even when I was very young, I had that kind of feeling in me. That’s why, when I saw the drawing of the Buddha, I was so happy. I just wanted to be like him.
I learned that if I practiced well, l could be who is peaceful, loving, and understanding can be called a buddha. There were many buddhas in the past, there are buddhas in the present moment, and there will be many buddhas in the future. Buddha is not the name of a particular person; buddha is just a common name to designate anyone who has a high degree of peace and who has a high degree of understanding and compassion. All of us are capable of being called by this name.
This collection of autobiographical and teaching stories from peace activist and Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh is thought provoking, inspiring, and enjoyable to read. Collected here for the first time, these stories span the author’s life. There are stories from Thich Nhat Hanh’s childhood and the traditions of rural Vietnam. There are stories from his years as a teenage novice, as a young teacher and writer in war torn Vietnam, and of his travels around the world to teach mindfulness, make pilgrimages to sacred sites, and influence world leaders.
At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life, Thich Nhat Hanh
Rider 2016, 192 pages, ISBN 8971846045325 £12.99
Book Depository: At Home in the World Free delivery worldwide.
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